Over the past couple of years, I somehow went from not using almost any accessory with my devices to owning and using a lot of them daily. I had always been fascinated by accessories, from cases to cradles to extended batteries, but I always owned a less popular mobile phone that made it almost impossible to find dedicated gadgetry. However, the rise in many universally-compatible accessories changed all of that.
Whether you’re an accessory veteran, or you’re looking for suggestions to improve your experience on Android, check out my list below for the tried-and-true gadgets that I use regularly and love.
Cables, Storage and Adapters
Mini Charging Cables
For about $2.7 on eBay, I got an extension USB cable along with 3 tiny charging USB cables for MicroUSB, MiniUSB and iPhone/iPad (regular, not Lightning). Given that almost every Android smartphone and gadget uses MicroUSB now, the tiny MicroUSB cable is invaluable to have. I keep it on my desk, and sometimes throw it in my bag/purse, and I always find it handy.
SanDisk 32GB MicroSD Card
Few devices offer microSD support nowadays, but if you’re lucky to own a phone or tablet that does, additional storage no longer costs a premium. SanDisk is the leading memory card manufacturer, and my past experience with their products has lead me to buy a 32GB MicroSDHC card from them. The card cost me about $25 on Amazon, but you can also get the 64GB version for less than $50.
MicroSD Card Readers
There are two things you can do with a MicroSD: read it on a computer or read it on a phone. For the computer part, most SanDisk cards ship with an SD card adapter to be read on a computer, but you can also buy a USB MicroSD reader for less than $1 on eBay if your computer doesn’t have an SD reader built-in. As for the phone part, several phones/tablets have MicroSD support built-in, or you could buy the Meenova microSD reader if yours don’t. I personally pledged during the Meenova Kickstarter campaign and I’m quite excited to receive my unit soon.
Most devices are using MicroSIMs now, but if you want to make sure you can use your SIM in older phones, consider getting a Micro SIM adapter. I purchased 2 for less than $1 on eBay and have used them several times already.
Samsung Car Mount
I have tried about half a dozen different car holders for mobile devices from the small vent holders to suction cups, from device-specific with few moving parts to universal with several adjustable parts. Each one had an issue, and several broke quite quickly. But the one car holder I have been using for several months now without any issue is the original Samsung Car Mount, which can be had for about $31 on Amazon.
The mount isn’t for a specific device, instead it can fit any modern smartphone and adjusts its width accordingly. It is very well-built, padded on the back and the lower and side holders to avoid scratching your phone, sturdy, minimalist, fixes easily on the windshield, and rotates smoothly without being too prone to accidental changes. If you’re looking for a car mount, I couldn’t recommend this one enough.
GoGroove FlexSMART X2
Some cars, like my Mercedes C230, just make it impossible to hook up music from your phone to their sound system. No Bluetooth, no Aux-In, not even a tape deck to use one of those old-school cassettes with an Auxiliary cable, and their FM system is difficult to override with a regular FM Transmitter. After combing through thousands of different solutions online, I ended up buying the GoGroove FlexSmart X2 for $50 on Amazon.
It plugs into the cigarette lighter, uses bluetooth to connect to your phone and then transmits the music through an enhanced FM transmitter to your car’s radio. I don’t know what black magic the GoGroove uses for its enhancement, but it’s the only FM transmitter that works in my car. Bonus features: it has handy buttons to control playback without having to reach for your touchscreen, and can charge your phone as well.
Universal 7″ Tablet Holder
It might not be the most elegant solution, but this tablet holder is practical, solid and very awesome for the price: $2.5 on eBay. I picked it because it’s fully adjustable instead of having preset angles, can fit the tablet in portrait or landscape, and its non-flat base means that it can sit well on a bed — which is where I use my tablet the most — without falling. I’m glad to say that all of my expectations were met.
2-in-1 Headphone Splitter and Phone Stand
I never knew such a gadget existed until I got one as swag in a giveaway. If you’re not as lucky, you can buy yours for less than $2 on eBay. This nifty little tool is a suction stand when used in its entirety, but take the top part out and you have a headphone splitter for you and your friend/sibling/significant other. I keep mine on my desk and use it mostly to prop my phones for viewing videos, and the headphone splitter part has come in handy a few times as well.
Portable Battery Chargers
Anker SlimTalk 3200mAh
One of the downfalls of modern smartphones is, without the shadow of a doubt, battery life. The more we pack into these portable computing machines, the less they actually last us through the day. That’s why I like having a small battery pack in my purse/bag wherever I go, and the Anker SlimTalk fits the bill perfectly, while costing nothing more than $20 on Amazon.
It’s smaller than most smartphones, light, packs enough to charge my phone more than once — or top it off in small increments for several times, which I actually prefer — and it comes with a built-in MicroUSB cable so you don’t have to worry about carrying an extra cable to charge your phone. You, honestly, can not believe how practical this little gadget is. Bonus feature: it has a built-in LED, and charges via MicroUSB so you don’t have to worry about an additional charger.
Limeade Blast 13000mAh
While the Anker is good enough for most smartphones in regular use, it’s good to have one huge battery pack for a long trip or if you usually carry a phone and a tablet around. That’s where the Limeade Blast comes in the picture. The battery can charge two devices simultaneously, with a 1A output for regular smartphones and 2.1A for tablets. Like the Anker, it has a built-in LED and charges conveniently via MicroUSB.
I originally pledged for the Limeade 13000mAh (thirteen thousand!) during its Kickstarter campaign, but you can now buy it for about $50 on Amazon — or get the 18000mAh version for $100. I have been using it for over a month, mostly as a replacement wall charger when my phone’s battery is getting low but I want to get some work done in the garden or on the porch. The freedom it provides, even while inside the house, is worth the price.
Sony Ericsson MW600
I had been looking for a pair of nice bluetooth earphones for a while until I ran across the MW600 on Amazon. At the time, they were going for $30 roughly, but they’re now back up at $42. With an average of 4 star reviews over 800+ reviews, I knew they should be quite decent.
And decent they are. I have been using them for over 6 months with no issue. They can connect to 3 devices — with the caveat that you have to switch manually between them — and they pack enough battery for several hours of music and podcast listening with several hours of standby too. I simply keep them clipped on my clothes with the cable around my neck all day, and pop the earphones in when I want to listen to something. Practical, rather cheap, and with decent sound output for a non-audiophile, these are by far one of my most used accessories.
Sennheiser CX 880 E
Again, I am no audiophile, but I have long ago developed a preference for Sennheiser’s earphones. I have had two other pairs (CX 500 and CX 400 II Precision) that lasted me over 4 years each, and I love the fact that most Sennheiser products come with a small pouch. Call me simple, but I appreciate the thought. After all, when you’re paying for a decent pair of earbuds, the least you can get is something to protect it and carry it in.
I recently acquired the CX 880 for $65 on Amazon — you can now find them at about $90 — and that’s the most I have ever paid for a pair of earbuds, but boy were they worth it! They certainly look like a premium product, and the sound quality makes you feel like the music is inside your brain. It’s magical. I could put these on and have a musical black out for a day, they’re that good.
Samsung YA-SBR510 Bluetooth Speaker
I got this bluetooth speaker as a gift a few years ago, and left it unused as I was re-doing my room then forgot about it. I found its box a few months back and I’m quite glad that I decided to unpack it and try it. The first advantage is its elegant and curved design which makes it feel at home in any modern room. The second advantage is that it supports Bluetooth but also USB and 3.5mm Aux input. The sound quality is good and loud (enough for a couple of rooms), and I love using it to listen to music and podcasts when I’m moving around the house. It looks like it has been discontinued from most retailers, but you can still find it for about $130 on eBay.
Cases & Screen Protectors
“Clear” Screen Protectors
Despite modern smartphones using Gorilla glass and being resistant to keys or sharp objects, they’re still prone to scratches, mostly from lint and dust particles inside pockets. That’s why the first accessory I buy for any smartphone is a clear screen protector. I don’t look for any particular brand, I buy the generic ones, but I insist only on one factor: it has to be “Clear”. “Mirror” or “Privacy” protectors tend to be thick and impair screen visibility and responsiveness, whereas “Clear” protectors are smooth, thin, and almost 100% transparent. I usually pick the least expensive pack of 2 or 3 on eBay (an average of $1 per protector).
Mercury/Caseology Jelly Cases
When I first got my Galaxy S3, I bought about 8 different cases for it, but I haven’t used any as much as the Mercury Jelly Case (now known as Caseology). It captures the perfect balance of thickness, malleability, smoothness and grip. Basically, it’s thick enough to protect your phone without adding too much bulk, it’s also smooth to the touch but grippy to the palm. Actually, I was so impressed that I’ve since been praising this case to everyone I know and I even bought several for my friends.
The case comes in a variety of colors — I personally got the Hot Pink one for about $7 on Amazon — and it’s also available for the Galaxy S4 and Note 2.
Case-Mate Pop! 2
My second favorite case for the Galaxy S3 was the Case-Mate Pop 2! I got the black and white version for about $20 on Amazon, but it exists in other colors and for other smartphones as well. The benefit of this case is that it’s almost rugged thanks to its dual protection (soft rubber on the interior and sides, hard plastic shell on the exterior), but it also comes with a built-in kickstand which is very useful to have when you want to watch a video or prop your phone in landscape.
Proporta Gadget Bag
Few accessories have lasted me more than a couple of years, and that’s why I treasure my Proporta Gadget Bag. I received it as a review unit from the folks at Proporta in 2010 and have been using it ever since. It comprises a main compartment (with a small pouch) and two half its size that zip onto it. The whole bag is practical with dedicated holes for your cables or earphone wires, and thick enough to carry and protect most of your phones, tablets and other gadgets. If you move constantly, or even if you want something to organize and protect your gadgets in the drawer, then this is a must-have. You can find the bag for about $29 on Amazon.
I couldn’t say more positive things about the Fitbit One than I did in my full review of the product and the Android app. It’s an inconspicuous modern pedometer, with sleep and stairs tracking, wireless syncing to your Android devices, and a battery that lasts more than a week. I keep mine on all day long and have used it to positively change my activity and get rid of my lazy tendencies. You couldn’t put a price on that, but if you had to, it’d be $99 on Amazon.
I’m not an artist, but I have a fascination with styli and brushes for phones and tablets. That’s why I decided to get the PenGo BrushPen for about $26 on Amazon. It’s not your run of the mill cheap touchscreen stylus, instead it’s an impressively built one with three interchangeable tips. There is a small round tip, a bigger one, and a brush. It works well on phones and tablets, but the utility is obviously multiplied on the latter, especially if you’re the artistic type.
NFC Smart Tags
I won’t go into details about the different uses of NFC stickers, as Joe has already covered it all in his article. However, I will tell you that I purchased a pack of 5 stickers for $4 on eBay and I use them to manually trigger some events on my phone, including logging my water drinks and swimming exercises on Fitbit, thanks to FitTap.
Manhattan Cleaning Kit
I found this little gem by chance while browsing a local gadget shop. It’s a cleaning solution for screens (and every other side of a smartphone or gadget) along with a microfiber cloth. The small solution costs a little more than $5 on Amazon and given that most devices attract fingerprints and grease, it should be a mainstay on your desk or in your gadget bag.
Some Crowd-Funded Projects
I have contributed to several crowd-funded projects over the past few months, and will hopefully be receiving some of them very soon. I’m adding them here because they are either unique ideas or well-executed revisions of an existing idea, and they’re worth keeping an eye on. After all, these were started by innovative gadget lovers like us who want to push the boundaries of how we use our smartphones.
- Amiigo Fitness Bracelet: a unique twist on activity tracking, with a bracelet and a shoe clip that work in tandem to recognize hundreds of different activity types.
- Button TrackR: a button-sized bluetooth tracker that helps you keep an eye on your prized possessions and alerts you when you’re about to leave them behind.
- Clipless: a very unique system that (almost magically) holds your phone or tablet onto different surfaces, from clothes to walls, and everything in between.
- Kreyos Smartwatch: an impressive take on the smartwatch with activity tracking, smart notifications, gesture and voice control, and more. It’s also waterproof!
What’s Your Favorite?
While writing this article, I realized that I definitely sound like I’m obsessed by accessories, but I honestly don’t regret buying any of the above. I use several of them daily, and the rest when needed, but I’m always relieved to have them around because they either simplify or enhance my life as a techie.
Do you see anything here that tickles your fancy? If not, have you bought other accessories for your Android phone or tablet that you would like to tell us and our readers about? Let us know in the comments below!